Medical Conditions Doctors Miss
So you're sleepy a lot and maybe a little blue, and your blood pressure is on the high side. It could be stress, or these and other common symptoms could be signs of serious medical conditions that doctors sometimes overlook.
Snoring is not usually described as
breathtaking, but it can be. The grunting or snorting sound could be a sign of
a serious condition called sleep apnea. The condition involves regular
interruptions in breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea experience
pauses in breathing that could last 10 seconds or longer for up to 60 times per
Many times, only symptoms of sleep apnea are treated and the disorder is
overlooked, says Grandi. For instance, when people with sleep apnea complain of
being tired and in a bad mood all the time, they often are diagnosed with and
treated for depression.
Barbara Phillips, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky
College of Medicine, cites the frequent association between sleep apnea and
obesity as an example.
"Physicians confronted with a very obese patient are having to deal with
lots and lots of issues, like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and heart
disease," Phillips explains. "Doctors tend to go for the low-hanging
fruit and try to do the doable, and the most cost-effective things, and I sure
don't blame them."
The expense and effort involved in screening can also hamper identification
of sleep apnea. A sleep study is recommended for diagnosis. This can involve
snoozing several nights at a sleep center while experts observe and measure
brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, breathing movements and oxygen
levels, and heart rate.
"Sleep studies are expensive, there are in some centers with long waits
to get in, and patients are intimidated by the process," says Phillips.
"I think that both patients and potentially referring doctors are put off
Patients who suspect they may have sleep apnea could help themselves by
bringing up the matter to a doctor.
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
Alcohol abuse and dependence are age-old problems that still do not get very
much attention in doctors' offices.
Alcohol abuse happens when you continue to drink alcohol despite the
significant troubles it causes in your life. Symptoms include:
- Suffering hangovers
- Having attendance and performance problems at work or school related to
- Having legal problems, such as physically hurting someone while intoxicated
or being arrested for driving under the influence
- Drinking even though it interferes with medical treatment
- Becoming injured as a result of alcohol use
- Hearing loved ones express concern about drinking
Alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence, a condition in which people's
lives spiral out of control and center around alcohol use. According to the
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcoholism is a disease
that includes four symptoms:
- Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink
- Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking on
any given occasion
- Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea,
sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a
period of heavy drinking.
- Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in
order to "get high"